Uncorked: Irish geese roots run deep in wine history
by Pat Kettles
Jul 03, 2013 | 2831 views |  0 comments | 53 53 recommendations | email to a friend | print
While reviewing trending wine news this week, a headline caught my eye about The Irish Order of Wine Geeks. Never having heard of this order, I clicked the article but upon reading it, I realized I had misread the name — it was actually the Irish Order of Wine Geese. I found the correct name of the order to be no less puzzling but reading on, a fascinating piece of wine history emerged.

In the 17th century, Irish rebels who supported James II, the Jacobite king defeated by the Williamite army of William of Orange, fled their native Ireland to join their deposed king who had taken refuge in France. The Jacobite exodus from Ireland became known as the “Flight of the Wild Geese,” geese which included common foot soldiers, merchants and titled landholders.

For those seeking refuge in France, the most direct port of entry was Bordeaux. As a result, many of these Irish geese became involved in the wine industry in some capacity including John Lynch, who became a prosperous merchant and whose son Michel married into the Bages family. Thus the famous Bordeaux Chateau Lynch-Bages has ties to the geese, as do other famous Bordeaux properties such as Chateau Léoville-Barton, Chateau Phélan-Ségur and Chateau Clark, which was developed by Irishman Luc Tobi Clarke, the great-grandson of James Clark who served as Alderman in Dublin City in 1688.

Wine geese did not migrate solely to France. Some migrated to North and South America and Australia.

Anyone of Irish descent involved in the wine business may call themselves a wine goose, but membership to the official Ireland Funds “WineGeese” Society is by invitation only, and only after a prospective member has, “Proven interest in, or connection with Ireland, personal and professional, and has a qualified assessment of capacity to support and demonstrated philanthropic activity.”

There are a number of recognizable names on the list of honorary members of the WineGeese Society. Among them are the late Jim Barrett of Chateau Montelena, Molly Chappellet of Chappellet Winery, David Duncan of Twomey Cellars and Silver Oak Cellars, Gary Farrell of Gary Farrell Vineyards, Doreen Murphy of Murphy-Goode Estates and Gavin Newsome, a principal in the Plumpjack Group and Winery.

Though not on the official geese membership list, the Irish Concannon family of Concannon Vineyards was established by a wine goose. The Concannon clan dates back a thousand years in Ireland. Founder James Concannon left Ireland at age 16 to come to America in 1865. In 1874 James moved his wife and the first of their 10 children to San Francisco. He was the first person to recognize the potential of growing wine grapes in the Livermore Valley, establishing vineyards there in 1883 to become California’s first successful Irish vintner.

Geese wines can be found locally. Several price tiers of Concannon wines, including lower-tier wines in the $8-$10 range, are available in chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, merlot and cabernet at both Winn-Dixie and Publix.

The Concannon family introduced America’s first varietally labeled petite sirah in 1961 and currently offers bottlings in a number of price ranges, but I found none available locally.

Two famous labels, Silver Oak Cellars and Twomey, are products of wine geese David Duncan. Silver Oak Cabernets are pricey but popular with locals. Tyson Fine Wines and Things in Golden Springs stocks two different Silver Oak cabernets, one from Napa for $110.50 and one from Alexander Valley for $68. Tyson’s also has the complete lineup of Twomey wines, priced from $24.50 to $51 including a sauvignon blanc, merlot and two different pinot noirs.

A Plumpjack Merlot 2009 is also available at Tyson’s for $48.75. Plumpjack is a joint venture of Gavin Newsome, current Lt. Governor of California and San Francisco philanthropist Gordon Getty. The winery takes its name from one of Shakespeare’s most memorable characters, Sir John “Plumpjack” Falstaff.

Email Pat Kettles at pkettles@annistonstar.com
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